VIO News Blog

March 2, 2009

State Department’s Report on Venezuela “Plagued with Lies”

On Thursday, the Venezuelan and Bolivian governments firmly condemned the U.S. State Department’s report on Human Rights practices in their respective countries shortly after its release yesterday. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was quoted by AP as stating that the report’s allegations are “plagued with lies,” while Bolivia’s Vice Minister Sacha Llorenti said that the report is “a gross simplification of the national reality that is politically motivated.” He also suggested that the U.S. lacked moral authority to raise human rights concerns.

The AP reports that before dawn on Thursday, a small explosive was thrown at a Jewish community center in Caracas. Nobody was injured in the attack, but the explosion damaged the doors to the center and a nearby vehicle. The event sparked fears of rising anti-Semitism in Venezuela as it was the second attack on a Jewish center this year. Reuters reports that authorities have already begun an investigation into the incident. AP quotes an international source – Sergio Widder of Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center as stating that “This is outrageous, it’s turning into an escalation.” It should be noted that the Venezuelan government forcefully denounced the vandalizing of a Caracas synagogue earlier this year, and a police investigation revealed that the perpetrators’ principal motivation was robbery and not anti-Semitism.

Reuters reports that Argentina has summoned the U.S. Ambassador in Argentina, and has demanded an explanation regarding CIA Director Leon Panetta’s comment on Wednesday that Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela could be pushed into instability by the global economic crisis. Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana called the comments “unfounded and irresponsible, especially from an agency that has a sad history of meddling in the affairs of countries in the region.”

Bloomberg reports that Venezuela’s economy grew at its’ slowest pace since 2003 in the fourth quarter of 2008, expanding 3.2 percent amidst a plunge in the country’s oil revenues. The AP reports that Venezuela’s Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said Thursday that Venezuela’s economic outlook for 2009 is stable despite the continued lull in oil prices.

Finally, an opinion piece in the Sun-Sentinel urges Venezuelan expatriates living in Florida to ponder the reasons why President Chavez remains so popular – with special attention given to his government’s social programs dedicated to ending poverty. The author reminds readers of the disastrous political past, which in 1993 led to riots, high inflation, two failed military coups, and the impeachment of then President Carlos Andres Perez. While the author is not a Chavez supporter, he states that “much of this dissatisfaction with Venezuela’s old political elite fueled Ch├ívez’s rise to power.”

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January 23, 2009

Chavez Renews Demands for Extradition of Accused Terrorist Posada Carriles

President Chavez will step down at the end of his term in 2013 if a constitutional amendment allowing reelection of presidents, mayors and local and national assembly officials is not approved on February 15 through national referendum, reports the Associated Press.

In other news, the Venezuelan Government will soon press the Obama administration to hand over Luis Posada Carriles, wanted by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which killed 73 people. The New York Times reports that Mr. Posada lives freely in Miami, and that the Bush administration would not extradite him due to its close ties with anti-Castro Cuban hardliners in Miami. Both countries accuse the United States government of hypocrisy in its fight against terror.

Venezuela’s oil minister Rafael Ramirez denied on Thursday that there was a conflict with Brazil over a joint $4 billion refinery project. Earlier reports cited an official from Brazil’s state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA as saying that there was a dispute in how much Brazil should pay for Venezuelan oil, and that Brazil was prepared to build the refinery on its own. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Ramirez called the comments “the opinion of a low-level official.”

The AP reports that Venezuela and Argentina signed a dozen agreements on Thursday, across a spectrum of sectors, including energy, industry, agriculture, and airlines. The two countries have also agreed to a joint development project of oil fields in eastern Venezuela.

The New York Times reports on Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan music director described as a “rising star,” and a “product of El Sistema, Venezuela’s music education system.” Mr. Dudamel will be directing the prestigious Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra.

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